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Morning Poll: Bar Crawl Changes?

by ARLnow.com | June 30, 2014 at 10:15 am | 5,241 views | No Comments

Police cars at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Highland Street after a car chase ended in a crash (photo courtesy Keith Hall)Over the weekend, during the All American Bar Crawl in Clarendon, an intoxicated Alexandria man in his early 20s stripped naked and led police on a chase that ended in a crash on Wilson Blvd.

It’s the latest high-profile police incident involving a bar crawl attendee in Arlington. In March a Reston woman allegedly showed up naked at the Arlington Magistrate’s Office and demanded that she be allowed to visit her husband, who was arrested earlier that day. Both had attended the St. Patrick’s Day-themed Shamrock Crawl, according to police.

The drunken antics of bar crawl attendees continue to irk residents of the neighborhoods around Clarendon. Some are calling for additional restrictions, or even an outright ban, on bar crawls. On the other hand, supporters say bar crawls are fun events that provide a social outlet for younger residents and a big boost for local businesses.

What, in your opinion, should Arlington policymakers do about bar crawls, if anything? (Assume that reducing the frequency of bar crawls is inclusive of any changes in police staffing you might support.)
 

Progressive Voice: Popularity of Rocky Run Park

by Peter Owen | June 26, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 1,119 views | No Comments

Peter OwenProgressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Meeting the diverse interests of Arlington residents about how best to make use of available open space is not an easy challenge. The recent renovations at Rocky Run Park meet that challenge and are a tremendous success. Walk by any summer afternoon or evening and you will see Arlington’s residents out enjoying this newly updated park.

The park reopened in early April and the joy felt by park users is nearly palpable. Improvements to the 2.4 acre site include:

  • Playgrounds for both tots and school-age children
  • A new picnic shelter for birthday parties and social events
  • Two lighted hard-surface courts; one can be used for both basketball and volleyball
  • A lighted multi-use synthetic turf field for pick-up games
  • Exercise stations, benches and chess tables
  • Substantially improved ADA accessibility
  • Extensive landscaping, including additional planting near the adjacent substation

In addition, the county relocated the labyrinth previously located at Arlington’s Whitman Walker Clinic to provide a quiet and contemplative green space within the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor.

How did these renovations occur? I credit the successful collaboration between the community and county government.

The Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) Plan adopted in 2007 pointed to the park and its oversubscribed and outdated equipment as an opportunity for improvement. Kristine Wood, our hardworking NCAC representative, brought neighbors together to request action. Responding to her leadership, county staff initiated a conversation with the CCCA to scope the redevelopment of Rocky Run as an NCAC project.

Following months of dialogue, NCAC citizen volunteers recommended the project to the County Board for funding, which was accomplished through a combination of pay as you go and park bond funding.

With the funding plan in place, Department of Parks and Recreation staff met with a CCCA work group comprised of active and interested members of varying ages. Neighborhood children were directly consulted on playground and other aspects of the park. Feedback was sought from elderly neighbors about making the park attractive and accessible.

By the spring of 2011, a collaborative, conceptual design for the park was in place. After our Civic Association unanimously approved the concepts, county staff worked with project engineers to refine and finalize a construction design that earned support from the county’s Park and Recreation Commission and Environment and Energy Conservation Commission.

When the plans were widely publicized on ARLnow.com, most residents were pleased, but some neighbors expressed concerns about certain parts of the plans and their understandable expectation for more direct notice than that provided mainly by civic association volunteers. (Since then, I have seen the county make improvements in how it provides similar notices.)

Even at this stage in the community planning process, County Board members and staff met with nearby neighbors in the summer of 2012, heard their concerns, and ultimately made additional refinements to the park design. In November 2012, the County Board unanimously approved a $2.95 million contract to fund the first stage of park improvements.

What do we have to show for this investment of time and resources? Living a block away from the park and walking by it daily, I see how popular the park is with Arlington’s parents, children, amateur ballplayers and other residents. (more…)

The Right Note: State of Columbia Pike

by Mark Kelly | June 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,635 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyChairman Jay Fisette delivered a state of the county address at the annual Arlington Chamber of Commerce event this week. Job No. 1 for the chairman — tell everyone how great the Columbia Pike trolley will be.

Knowing words from the three supporters still on the County Board may not be enough to turn public opinion, so the Board will also ramp up a $650,000 ad campaign for the unpopular project. Any number of other projects in the County could be paid for with that money, as well as with the remainder of the $7-8 million contract. Or, they could have cut taxes and left that money in the local economy.

In his speech, Fisette claimed that running a trolley line down existing lanes of the Pike will not contribute to traffic congestion or accidents more than a bus or another car. He also pivoted to creating new affordable housing stock as an important rationale for the trolley.

A few years back, the Board made redeveloping Columbia Pike a priority. They made a part of that plan the form based code. Under the form based code, developers can essentially build without negotiating with the county on a site plan, provided they stay within the bounds of the code.

But, the Columbia Pike corridor is home to a high percentage of the most market-rate affordable housing in the county. This Board-driven redevelopment, happening now without the trolley in place, will gradually drive that market-rate affordable housing out of the county.

So, now the Board believes they must make replacing that housing stock a priority. The trolley, Fisette claims, will incentivize developers to work outside the form based code for additional density in exchange for creating affordable housing. Imagine Clarendon on the Pike. Of course, many disagree with Fisette’s assessment that additional density will make a substantial difference in attracting developers who will opt to pursue it.

Regardless of the disagreements over the merits of the Fisette plan, if implemented, we will have come full circle. The Board adds to the affordable housing shortage. Then the Board commits to spending taxpayer dollars to fix said crisis. And, in so doing, the Board sticks Arlingtonians with a long-term commitment to subsidizing the operations of a trolley line, over and above the additional construction costs. And worse, it will not substantially improve the ability to move people over improved bus service, which can be done at a fraction of the cost.

Fisette clearly disagrees on the efficacy of the improved bus service. “No possible bus system can handle that ridership growth,” he said. At the same time, the trolley system cannot handle the increased ridership on its own either. Buses will continue to run up and down the Pike with the trolleys. The half-billion price tag does not replace buses along the Pike, it would merely supplement them.

The bottom line — the trolley does not have an image problem that can be corrected with some slick advertising campaign or speeches by the chairman.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Peter’s Take: AWLA Offers Innovative Services

by Peter Rousselot | June 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 430 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotAs I have periodically, today I’m profiling a nonprofit that offers valuable services to the Arlington community: the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA).

AWLA provides animal adoption and community programs to the northern Virginia and D.C. metropolitan area, as well as animal rescue and control services within Arlington County. AWLA is committed to its mission to improve the lives of animals through sheltering, community services and humane education.

More than 3,000 companion animals benefit each year, with 92 percent of sheltered animals in 2013 either being adopted into loving homes, reunited with their owner, or transferred to one of many of AWLA’s network of rescue and rehabilitation partners.

Many of you already may be familiar with AWLA’s basic services, but AWLA also offers some innovative programs about which you may not be as familiar. These include baby ready pets, safekeeping (companions in crisis), and the veterinary assistance program.

Baby Ready Pets

Baby-Ready Pets is a free, two-hour workshop to help expectant families in northern Virginia prepare their home and their pets for the arrival of the new baby. This workshop:

  • Provides tips and strategies for making the home a safe and (relatively) stress-free experience for all, and
  • Has been endorsed by the ASPCA.

After the workshop, participants may call or email follow-up questions if they need additional support.

Safekeeping (Companions in Crisis)

If you are an Arlington County or Falls Church City resident, and you are experiencing a health or housing crisis (i.e. unexpected hospitalization, house fire), AWLA can shelter your pet on a short-term basis, through the Safekeeping program, giving you time to make other arrangements.

Pets are permitted to stay for up to two weeks, and there is no restriction on the number of times people can use the service. The pet’s owner is required to contact AWLA on a weekly basis during the safekeeping period to check on the wellbeing of their pet, and is permitted to visit their pet during the League’s regular visiting hours.

Veterinary Assistance Program

Through the Ross-Roberts Emergency Veterinary Assistance fund, the League makes small, no-interest loans to low-income pet owners who need emergency veterinary care for their pets but cannot afford the costs up-front. AWLA doesn’t cover expenses for basic pet care (shots, check-ups, teeth-cleaning) or chronic, life-long conditions (i.e. diabetes, heart condition, allergies). The owner agrees to pay back the loan in monthly installments and to have their pet spayed or neutered if it is not already.

Arlington is fortunate to have AWLA offering these services in our community. For more information about these programs, visit www.awla.org

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Letter to the Editor: Place Subsidized Housing in Residential Neighborhoods

by ARLnow.com | June 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm | 3,516 views | No Comments

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Henry Weiss, a rising junior at Washington-Lee High School who “chose to research Arlington’s affordable/subsidized housing crisis” as a class project this past school year.

Arlington’s subsidized housing stock is rapidly disappearing, and with it, its diversity.

This is an indisputable fact. Whether that is cause for concern is debatable, but I am of the opinion, as is the County Board, that it is. While I cannot speak for the members of the board, I believe this because I think that it is the responsibility of all prosperous jurisdictions to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from and contribute to that prosperity, no matter their background.

The County Board has already taken a few steps in the direction of preserving and recreating that subsidized housing stock, and I applaud them for that. But the county could still be doing much more.

First, Arlington and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing should stop negotiating with developers to include subsidized housing in individual projects, and simply institute inclusionary zoning ordinances, requiring new developers to set aside a certain percent of their units for low income individuals.

Because the location of most of the larger residential development in the county overlaps with the locations of Arlington’s newest subsidized housing projects (in Rosslyn, Courthouse, Ballston and on Columbia Pike), creating inclusionary zoning laws will simply codify and institute on a larger scale what has already been the policy of the county while eliminating the costs of that policy for taxpayers. Inclusionary zoning laws in Arlington would also be a relatively quick way to recreate subsidized housing in the areas of the county that have lost the most of it in recent years.

The second step Arlington should take is to encourage the integration of its residential neighborhoods, probably through the encouragement of the construction of low rise apartments. Many of Arlington’s middle class neighborhoods, such as Penrose, Waverly Hills, Columbia Forest and Westover among others have managed to preserve their beauty and safe environments while maintaining subsidized and affordable housing, and these communities should be a model for others in the county.

Most of the adverse effects of subsidized and affordable housing occur when that housing is concentrated in one area and its residents are cut off from economic and educational opportunities. But in a county like Arlington, where the economy and schools are thriving, proper placement of subsidized housing in middle class neighborhoods will prevent these effects from being felt.

To help residents of less integrated neighborhoods feel more comfortable with this plan, Arlington should allow the civic associations of those less diverse neighborhoods to submit plans to bring more subsidized units to their communities in the relatively near future. The county should give civic associations plenty of chances to submit satisfactory plans before taking charge of planning for the diversification of that neighborhood.

In my opinion, this would be the best way to preserve and grow the fast disappearing pool of subsidized housing and diversity in Arlington. I am sure that many people will find faults in this plan, and others may draw up alternative plans. But one thing is certain: the County Board needs to come up with a comprehensive plan to preserve and recreate the subsidized housing they claim to support, and they need to do it quickly.

To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to arlingtonnews@gmail.com. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

Peter’s Take: Healthcare for Virginia’s Poor

by Peter Rousselot | June 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 532 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotIn a January column, I urged Virginia state legislators to find bi-partisan common ground to expand Medicaid coverage. So far, they have failed to find it.

In that earlier column, I quoted with approval from a Virginian-Pilot editorial warning that the cost of resisting Medicaid expansion would be ruinous:

Virginia lawmakers can preserve the financial health of hospitals across the commonwealth, save state tax dollars, strengthen local and state economies, extend managed health-care to nearly 400,000 people, many of them working poor, and recoup nearly $10 billion in federal taxes paid by Virginians over the next five years.

Or they can continue the reckless political theater destined to grow more costly with every passing year, a play that will cause a financial crisis at hospitals all across Virginia.

After spending six months, and engaging in thousands of hours of bitter partisan conflict, we now have arrived at the ruinous situation about which the Virginian-Pilot warned. Every Republican in the Virginia legislature voted last week against Medicaid expansion.

Most Republican legislative leaders who fought expansion argued it was the wrong policy solution. That surely CANNOT be because opposition to Medicaid expansion is some kind of core Republican Party value. Republican Governors in eight states (Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Ohio) have either signed or supported legislation expanding Medicaid. Republican Governors in two other states (Indiana and Pennsylvania) have led alternative efforts to provide healthcare for the poor.

In Pennsylvania, a Republican Governor has made a health care reform proposal that would improve access to Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of residents through a premium assistance model. Up to 520,000 eligible low-income residents would receive federal subsidies to purchase private coverage through Pennsylvania’s federally run insurance exchange. Federal Medicaid expansion funds would be used to help eligible residents purchase commercial insurance.

Republicans in these other states have demonstrated greater leadership than Virginia Republicans in successfully addressing an enormous public policy problem. By carefully studying the Republican solutions in these other states, Virginia Republican legislative leaders should be able to find the right solution for Virginia.

While a few Virginia Republican legislators have expressed interest in providing a better healthcare solution for Virginia’s poor, most Republican and some Democratic legislators still seem focused on “reckless political theatre”.

Our failure to act may be better than some of the proposed solutions, but it surely is not better than the status quo.

If Republicans and Democrats in eight other states could act under Republican governors, then Virginia should be able to act under a Democratic Governor.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Progressive Voice: The Important CIP Process

by Nancy Iacomini | June 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 967 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Nancy IacominiThe season to consider infrastructure and built amenities in Arlington is underway.

In May, the County Manager presented her draft Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Neighborhood groups, organizations and individual residents have been weighing in on infrastructure projects cited in the CIP. This dialogue includes addressing the merits of projects that affect their visions of what Arlington County should be.

The CIP helps identify priorities based on funding projections that are necessarily estimates — we may see costs, revenues, and funding sources change over time. But the County Board does its best to fit residents’ priorities within the resources the County believes will be available.

We have already seen how the CIP process can sharpen thinking about our priorities and our investments. For example, the County found ways to redesign and dramatically lower the cost of transit stations. The County has put on hold a new aquatic center when bids came in well above budget projections.

This year’s CIP includes the streetcar system that will run from Skyline (yes, Fairfax County is a partner), along Columbia Pike to the Pentagon, and connect with a line through Crystal City and into Potomac Yard.

By looping together the Pike, Pentagon City, Crystal City, and Potomac Yard, the system will bring together the places where many live and work — single family areas, mid-rise residential and commercial areas, high rise buildings, grocery stores, community centers, libraries, coffee shops and much more.

It is a transportation system that will serve many thousands of people. It provides infrastructure that is not ephemeral. It will be tangible and fixed.

For a homeowner it means efficient and predictable public transportation will be a few blocks down the street come rain or shine and not be subject to a bus route changes. It tells commercial building owners there will be transportation for high rise office and residential tenants they attract to occupy revitalized structures in Crystal City. It also will provide one-ride transportation for employees who might work in Crystal City but live along the Pike.

The streetcar extends Arlington’s history as an excellent place to live and work because of intelligent and sustained investments in fixed public transportation infrastructure.

The CIP process has already helped sharpen the County’s focus on the streetcar investment. County Board members have committed themselves to finding ways to finance the system without any homeowner-financed general obligation bonds. The County has also hired a project management firm with a proven record of performance that has been tasked with finding ways to reduce system costs, speed up delivery, and minimize construction disruptions.

The CIP process has also brought into focus that the County cannot address the growing needs of schools and other core services without increasing economic growth in underdeveloped urban corridors like Columbia Pike and Crystal City. The recent streetcar return on investment study shows what has been demonstrated by other systems across the country — its creation will grow our economy far faster than any alternative system and will produce far more tax revenues to fund school expansion and the other key services that Arlingtonians want and expect.

Our willingness in Arlington to find ways to expand our commercial tax base fosters a thriving County that is an attractive place to live and work. Our County’s forward thinking earns confidence from financial experts and wins praise from planning and transportation experts.

Through fiscal responsibility, sound financial practices, and conservative financing policies, Arlington has maintained the highly coveted Triple-AAA bond rating for many years. The use of the CIP has been a key component of these good practices.

The CIP process is an appropriate place to consider our streetcar investment. The process allows us to bring in public input while respecting all of the planning that has already taken place as well as our long-term commitment to progressive policies in land use and transportation.

Because of my confidence in the CIP process, I support the decisions by County Board members Fisette, Hynes and Tejada to evaluate the streetcar within that process. The Chairman’s statement makes the case more eloquently that I can.

A referendum would be an ineffective way to evaluate a complex project. And, as far as I know, an advisory referendum would be contrary to law. Finally, there is no reason for a bond referendum where no general obligation bonds will be needed.

The current CIP process continues into July — all ideas are welcome and input encouraged as we work together to keep Arlington a great place.

Nancy Iacomini has resided in Arlington since 1980 and is currently a member of Arlington County’s Planning Commission. She is also a past member and chairman of WMATA’s Riders’ Advisory Council.

The Right Note: Tone Deaf Decisions

by Mark Kelly | June 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 924 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyIn completely unsurprising news, Board Members Fisette, Tejada and Hynes have rejected calls for a referendum on the Columbia Pike trolley. What does that mean?

They would almost certainly lose the vote. Outside of a Presidential election turnout year, there is virtually no way the Board could win this vote — even if they could still get the endorsement on the Democrat’s sample ballot. The three trolley supporters may not care what the public thinks, but someone over in the County Manager’s office has certainly figured it out.

It makes you wonder whether Tejada or Hynes plan to run for re-election next year. Maybe they are taking advice and counsel on this project inside of their own political bubble, but their unwavering support of the project seems to leave them vulnerable in 2015.

Thus ends Alan Howze’s political stunt of calling for a referendum. Howze supports the trolley, and his wish to take it off the table by punting it to a public vote has been denied by the three Board members who endorsed him in the special election.

Chairman Fisette pledged not to use homeowner-financed general obligation bonds. That is an empty promise since the Board would have to take a request for those bonds to the voters. It has always been the Board’s plan to use other funding mechanisms. Federal dollars, the commercial property tax surcharge, tax increment financing, or public-private partnerships have been the options on the table since the start, almost certainly in no small part to avoid a public vote.

Walter Tejada said there are “other ways to address public concerns” on the trolley. This also rings hollow from someone who has repeatedly made clear statements that the Board has already taken into account all the public input it needs on the trolley before moving the project forward.

The trolley trio has no intention of turning back now. Chalk this announcement up to another tone deaf move that only further hardens the opposition.

In other news, the Arlington Police Department announced they would enforce the Virginia DMV’s decision to outlaw Uber and Lyft. From a law enforcement perspective, APD really had no choice here. But, this does open up some questions.

Where do our County Board members stand on the ban? And, where does Alan Howze stand?

Who ultimately made the decision in Richmond to prohibit Uber and Lyft from operating in Virginia? What is Arlington’s General Assembly delegation doing to rectify the issue with Governor McAuliffe?

Legislators could ask for emails from the DMV and Governor’s office to investigate the decision-making process, but it would be a shame to see any hard drives get the Lois Lerner/IRS treatment.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Morning Poll: Mobile-Optimized Site?

by ARLnow.com | June 17, 2014 at 9:30 am | 731 views | No Comments

ARLnow.com as displayed on a smartphoneARLnow.com is about to embark on a minor redesign of our website and we would like your opinion on one aspect of this process.

Currently, our site is not optimized for smartphone readers. Instead, those who visit us on iPhones, Droids and other mobile phones simply see our desktop website rendered by their smartphone’s browser.

Many news websites, however, are designed to display in a more “native” fashion on smartphone screens — in a way that doesn’t require the user to zoom in to read text. One criticism of such mobile-optimized sites is that they can sometimes hide certain features and make navigation more difficult.

ARLnow.com is considering three approaches to our redesign:

  1. Develop a mobile-optimized site, from scratch, for smartphone users
  2. Optimize the existing site to simply display with larger text for smartphone users, to make articles more readable
  3. Don’t make any changes for smartphone users

Which would you prefer?

The Right Note: Will Virginia Avoid a Shutdown?

by Mark Kelly | June 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 619 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyWhat a difference two weeks make.

When last I wrote this column, Eric Cantor was still the Majority Leader of the U.S. House. Arlington was going forward with the aquatics center. Democrats controlled the state Senate. And, it was looking increasingly unlikely the General Assembly would pass a budget on time.

Much has been made of the circumstances surrounding the resignation of state Sen. Phillip Puckett. But, the fact remains that he has resigned and put Republicans in control of the Senate. Looking at the electoral results of his district, it is much more likely than not that Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats have lost control of that chamber at least through the 2015 elections.

In all likelihood, the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly will pass a budget to send to the Governor’s desk — as early as today. All Senate Republicans, and one Democrat, have indicated they would likely pass a budget without resolving the Medicaid question. So, the budget will look largely like the one the General Assembly could have negotiated and passed two months ago.

The Governor will then face a choice. He can veto the budget and shut the government down over the expansion of Obamacare. He can admit he does not have the votes, stop the political theater, and return to the job of governing. Or, he can proceed to expand Obamacare on his own, without legal authority.

If he vetoes the bill, it would stop the paychecks of government employees and the flow of state dollars to localities beginning on July 1. Arlington’s rainy day fund would almost certainly cover the interim costs until state funding was restored, but many localities would immediately be put in a bind.

If the Governor admits defeat in this round, he can keep the government open and make his case for a special session to try and make a deal on Medicaid. If a special session fails, he can campaign on it in 2015 and try to win enough votes in the General Assembly to ensure its passage in the next biennial budget.

The worst thing for him to do is a third, almost “nuclear option,” which is to ignore the law and try to move forward on executive authority. This would lead to a constitutional crisis where state employees would have to decide whether to adhere to state law or executive order. This course of action would put us in a state of limbo while courts sorted out the mess.

The Governor should commit to sign a budget to keep the government open and promise not to expand Medicaid without the statutory authority to do so.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Peter’s Take: Virginia DMV Shoots the Customer

by Peter Rousselot | June 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,105 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotARLnow.com reported last week that the Virginia Deptartment of Motor Vehicles (DMV) ordered Uber and Lyft to stop doing business. The DMV claims these companies’ operations violate current Virginia law. The Arlington Police Department says it plans to help DMV enforce its orders.

Uber and Lyft immediately responded saying they would continue to do business because their operations do NOT violate current Virginia law.

It would be foolish to try to resolve this dispute by spending months or years in court arguing whether Uber and Lyft have the right to do business under current Virginia law. For the reasons I explained in my May 29 column, current Virginia law is hopelessly out of date. Our law needs to be changed regardless of whether it currently authorizes Uber and Lyft to do business. My earlier column outlined the kinds of changes needed.

Those changes require action by the Virginia legislature. That action ought to be undertaken on a bi-partisan basis. Although individual legislators and officials in the executive branch ought to be starting now to develop this new legislation, it is unrealistic to expect a final new law to be passed and signed until the 2015 legislative session. Colorado has just enacted a new law on this subject. That law can guide Virginia’s efforts.

Did the DMV do the right thing by ordering Uber and Lyft to cease operations entirely until Virginia revises its laws?

NO!

Despite what VA DMV says, it is far from clear that current Virginia law prohibits Uber and Lyft from doing business entirely. It is clear that they are offering services that many customers find incredibly popular and valuable. A brief review of the comments posted to last week’s ARLnow.com story illustrates this.

For example, with over 80 up votes, Kyle Weathers says “this is laughable. You are basically killing jobs. Not to mention the fact that Uber delivers a FAR SUPERIOR service than any cab I have ever taken in Virginia.” With over 40 up votes, Paula Ledbetter Graves reports “I’ve used Uber X many times and have always had a great experience.”

Instead of issuing cease and desist orders, the DMV should be bending over backwards to:

  • help draft new laws that will enable Uber, Lyft, and traditional cab companies to operate on a  level playing field that regulates only things like safety, insurance and background checks, and
  • encourage Uber and Lyft to continue to do business in the meantime, while assuring that consumers have sufficient protections.

Since current law is ambiguous, the DMV should foster these innovative new businesses, not put unnecessary roadblocks in their path.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Progressive Voice: Advancing the Status of Women

by Krysta Jones | June 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 518 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Krysta JonesThink for a second… how would you describe “the status of women?”

In Arlington, we have a Commission on the Status of Women that helps foster a community conversation about the status of women and how best to advance their interests in our community and society.

Arlington follows the lead of President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 created the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

Chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the commission studied employment policies and practices, political and civil rights, and “services for women… including education, counseling, training, home services, and arrangements for care of children during the working day.”

The resulting 1963 report noted a need for “increased access to education for women, aid to working mothers, child care services, equal employment opportunities, equality of rights under the law, and a wider role for women in government.”

Today, most would agree that the status of women has improved, but issues such as political leadership, pay equity, and the continuing prevalence of rape and domestic violence remain relevant.

Fortunately, Arlington has taken a leading role in addressing these issues.

Rape and Domestic Violence. In 2011, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey of rape and domestic violence and found that nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or experienced an attempted rape. One in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner.

As the Arlington community works to reduce violence against women, it is good to see the County remains dedicated to helping survivors. In the FY 2015 budget, the County Board funded a new sexual assault hotline in Arlington. The County also helps support social service groups that assist survivors, including Doorways for Women and Families.

This builds on long-term County efforts that have helped to reduce and address the effects of domestic violence. Through the efforts of leaders such as Barbara Favola, Arlington developed Project Peace — a coordinated community response to domestic violence.

Women in Politics. These days, the media has constant coverage about Hillary Clinton and whether she will seek to become the first woman president. While there are more women engaged in politics than the celebrated “Year of the Woman” in 1992, national numbers remain low. Women occupy only 18.5 percent of congressional seats; and minority women occupy only 4.5 percent of those seats.

Yet research shows that when women run, women win. That is particularly true in Arlington, where women hold top leadership spots as County Board and School Board members, Commissioner of Revenue, Commonwealth’s Attorney, and state senator.

Historically, women have played a key role in Arlington politics — from Elizabeth Campbell on the School Board to pioneering legislators like Mary Marshall and Elise Heinz. County Board leaders Ellen Bozman and Mary Margaret Whipple were key Metro board members and leaders in Arlington’s groundbreaking smart growth planning.

(more…)

Letter to the Editor: Arlington Values Education

by ARLnow.com | June 7, 2014 at 10:55 am | 2,108 views | No Comments

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Mary Hynes and Noah Simon. Mary is Vice Chair of the Arlington County Board and a former School Board member. Noah is an Arlington County School Board Member. This letter represents their individual views.

Arlington residents value education. We are, after all, a community where 70% of residents hold bachelor degrees and over 25% hold advanced degrees. We see the commitment to education daily – in engaged parents, committed teachers, active PTA’s, and strong business partnerships. That commitment has been demonstrated for more than three decades by voter support for upgraded and expanded schools.

Still, our community now faces school enrollment levels that we have not seen for nearly 50 years in Arlington. People want to live in Arlington because of our high quality schools and to entrust their children’s education to our dedicated school professionals.

We know that Arlington supports education because of the way our tax dollars are spent. As has been true for decades, both the County’s and the Arlington Public Schools’ FY15 budgets reflect Arlington’s sustained commitment to public education and academic excellence. And the School Board maintained the community’s vision of a high quality education for all students while aligning community priorities with fiscal prudence.

In terms of dollars invested in education, the APS budget totals $539.4 million, an increase of 3.1 percent. It includes a County transfer of $432.2 million as well as one time payments that provide an even higher percentage increase. The increases address the growing enrollment trend that shows no sign of slowing in the next several years.

This schools investment represents approximately 47% of Arlington County’s locally generated revenue. We spend more on schools than on any other community priority. We invest far more per pupil – approximately $19,200 — than other jurisdictions in our region, largely a product of low class size and high quality teachers. Considering that only 13 percent of Arlington households have school-age children, the community’s commitment to education is substantial.

What do Arlington students and residents get for this education investment? Successful students, great schools, expanded adult education opportunities, high graduation rates, strong higher education attainment rates, more efforts to eliminate achievement gaps, and a highly ranked education system that attracts quality businesses and employers.

Here are a few highlights from the budget:

  • A reaffirmed countywide commitment to current low class sizes;
  • Additional County transfer funding to address enrollment growth;
  • Full funding for all available Pre-Kindergarten slots in recognition that early childhood education is critical to student success — Arlington remains the only Northern Virginia county that uses all available state funding for Pre-K;
  • Funding to prepare students to meet the demands of a global marketplace by eliminating early-Wednesday release at three schools and enabling those schools to implement the Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) Program;
  • A strong commitment to students with special needs;
  • Numerous opportunities for Advanced Placement courses, athletic participation and arts education;
  • A 2 percent salary increase and $500 one-time bonus payment for employees; and
  • Opportunities for adult English language learners to earn their high school diploma and enhance their future career opportunities.

Our community knows that education is a key contributor to our economic growth and to the success of future generations. That is why Arlington is so committed to having excellent schools.

As the needs of the school system change over time, we remain committed to addressing those needs. Today, enrollment growth is one of the most pressing challenges we face. That is why the County Board and School Board are working together to come up with solutions and resources – including a look at how we can take a fresh look at how best to structure a revenue sharing agreement to manage taxpayer funds efficiently and plan effectively to keep our schools strong.

With the passage of the County and Schools budgets, attention now shifts to the Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) process. In the coming weeks, the Schools capital plan will request funding to meet enrollment needs. Getting more seats into the pipeline – at all levels – is a priority that both Boards are committed to meeting.

It will take all of us — parents, educators, civic associations, School Board and County Board colleagues – the entire community – to solve the challenge of school capacity in a timely and responsible manner. Arlington remains committed to providing the best in public schools – and we are committed to keeping it that way by growing our economy, investing for the future, and aligning community priorities with fiscal responsibility.

Mark Levine: Why You Should Vote for Me

by ARLnow.com | June 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,075 views | No Comments

Mark LevineLast week, we asked the candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 8th District congressional race to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the June 10 primary.

Here is Mark Levine’s unedited response:

There is a battle going on in the Democratic Party between its establishment and progressive wings. Conventional Democrats believe the best way to “get things done” is to appease the right wing, give them half of what they want, and declare victory.

I reject this strategy as counter-productive. When Don Beyer caved in to Republicans Jim Gilmore and George Allen, he didn’t win the debate: he lost his gubernatorial election by a landslide and ended up regretfully (and unintentionally) abandoning Virginia’s poor. When President Obama caved in to the tea party in 2010, it did not moderate his right-wing opponents. It increased their obstruction.

In contrast, in 2013, when President Obama stood firm and refused to surrender, the tea party blinked. When my hero Elizabeth Warren refused to back down on consumer protection, she won both the rhetorical battle and the legislation. My former boss Barney Frank insisted on regulating Wall Street firms that were too big to fail. And although he did not get everything he wanted, Paul Volcker’s rule (requiring banks not to gamble with their clients’ money) became law.

I was a good trial lawyer and never lost a case in my home court. Because opposing counsel knew I did not fear going to trial, I settled more than 90% of my cases. My willingness to go to trial increased my chances of a good settlement.

I saw Barney do the same thing on Capitol Hill. Time and time again, Republicans gave us what we wanted because they did not want Barney calling them out in public.

I’ve been The Aggressive Progressive on radio and television for more than ten years. I enjoy facing down right-wing pundits like Bill O’Reilly, promoting liberal values with my Constitution in hand. I’m confident I can pass bipartisan legislation behind the scenes if unreasonable Republicans know that I, like Barney, am unafraid to call them out in public.

We will always have moderate Democrats. The Party is full of them. We have a big tent. But if we in the Eighth Congressional District do not elect an aggressive progressive to make our case, who will? Who will be the Elizabeth Warren counterpart in the House? Barney Frank and so many strong liberals have already left Government. Jim Moran is retiring too, and he was no shrinking violet.

To fill Jim Moran’s seat, we need someone who can work effectively both behind the scenes and in front of a TV camera. We need someone who can reach out to voters nationally so they put pressure on their local representatives to do the right thing. That way, we in the Eighth effectively get more than one vote on Capitol Hill.

I’m Mark Levine. On Tuesday June 10th, I respectfully ask for your vote. I want to be a representative who stands out in a sea of politicians, makes a real difference, and fights the big-business interests who use big money and lobbyists to buy so many of our representatives in Congress. I can’t be bought, because I’ll only be working for you.

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